In 5 Important Listening Skills You Should Be Teaching Your Kids, I shared the five types of listening skills you should be helping your kids master. The best way to teach kids almost anything is to find ways for them to have fun while they practice. Some of the listening skills we covered overlap the others a bit. Since they have a slightly different focus though, you should do activities focusing primarily on each particular listening skill.
You can probably find lots of fun things to try, but here are a few of my favorites for each listening skill:
- Listening for Content. For this skill, you want to find activities that help your children focus on hearing and remembering the actual content of what is said. Younger children will usually be able to hear and recall a smaller number of things than older children. Games requiring recall or having to notice small details in what was said are great for this. If you have several children, you can play games where you take turns adding to a list of some sort in time to claps. “I’m going on a trip and I’m taking…” and other similar games require nothing but people. Check your library for two-minute mystery or other books which can be read to your child and require your child listening to details carefully in order to solve the mystery. Or try a verbal scavenger hunt. Name a number of objects which they must remember and find in order to win the “treasure”. “Simon Says” played with two, three or more step directions (“Simon Says turn around, touch your toes and sing the alphabet”) is a great practice game for younger children.
- Listening for Meaning. The activities in this area should be planned with your child’s age, life experience and vocabulary in mind. Some older children may need simpler activities, while some younger children with large vocabularies may be ready for more difficult activities. Head to your library or bookstore and read some funny books about idioms to your kids. (This site has a list to get you started, but please read for content before sharing with your children.) Have some fun speaking “properly” and say things you would normally say to your kids – only this time use advanced vocabulary words. Or spend an entire afternoon trying to say everything using only idioms. Older kids might enjoy listening to clips of political speeches or sermons and see if they can figure out the point the person was trying to make. If your child has a hobby or interest like cooking, have them watch a show or video on the topic. Have them figure out what terms new to them actually mean or require one to do. Would ignoring that word or doing something entirely different change the outcome of the project? (If you’ve ever accidentally hit the broil instead of bake function on an electric oven, you know what I mean!)
- Listening for emotion. Children with certain learning challenges may find this particular listening skill very difficult. Children who are very empathetic or intuitive may need more advanced activities. Drama games can be fun in this area. Come up with sentences people could honestly say, but depending upon their facial expressions, body language, tone, and more – could express several different emotions. (Examples: “Great” “Sure” “I see what you mean”, etc.) Then take turns acting out one of the options to see if others can guess the correct emotion being expressed. Watch appropriate television shows or movies and have your kids watch for times when the characters’ emotions and words don’t necessarily match. Or for characters who aren’t saying anything, but are expressing emotions in other ways.
- Listening for truth. Advertising is a great way to practice listening for truth (or the lack thereof). Find funny commercials online. What are they trying to sell? What are they saying or not saying? What little disclaimers do they slip into the commercial? What do they imply is true by what they are saying, but may or may not be true? Older kids who enjoy research, may want to fact check a newspaper article, political speech or sermon. Or play the game “Two Truths and a Lie” and see if they can figure out how to be successful at picking out the lies told by those playing. (Play multiple rounds, so they can begin noticing patterns – like their sister licking her lips every time she tells a lie.)
- Listening for the unspoken. This listening skill won’t be possible with most very young children. It’s also a little more difficult to practice with older ones. Try to think of activities like cooking, where you can give them some of the verbal instructions for completing the recipe, but stop short of telling them every step. How did they know they needed more information than you gave them? What additional information do they need to complete the recipe or activity? This is another time when some mysteries can help. What information are the suspects withholding? What additional information that hasn’t been shared is necessary to solve the mystery? Also look for situations where things are implied, but not directly said. How can your kids know if what they are inferring from what was implied is correct? Or that something is being implied at all? When should they take things for face value and when should they dig deeper for what was unsaid?
Taking the time to help your kids become great listeners, will help their Christian walk in so very many ways. It is definitely worth the time and effort.